When the 8th edition launched, there was a lot of focus on the simpler rules, and the indexes put everyone on a level playing field. Since then, however, the game has become much more complex, with the special rules introduced with new rules found in codexes, FAQs, Chapter Approved, and White Dwarf. The various additional bonuses, psychic powers, army faction bonuses and stratagems all stack across different units, and it can be very difficult to actually work out what you actually need to do when playing a game.
I’m not a competitive player at all, but I do like to feel I’m at least playing the game right, so I wanted to put a sort of general crib sheet together so I cover the basics properly. This certainly won’t work for everyone, and is aimed at friendly games, not tournament play.
Building a List
Pick the units you like, point them up, get onto the battlefield! Huzzah!
That’s actually the core of how I put a list together, to be fair. Sadly, though, you do need to think ahead a bit more on how the troops will work together on the battlefield, especially in the modern game. A good example was the time I fielded my Imperial Guard army without a single officer to issue commands – and probably halved the effectiveness of the force at a stroke. If you can’t issue orders to troops, Guard armies don’t work very well!
Every army (and faction within it), tends to have certain rules, bonuses and stratagems that augment certain troop types. Picking an army without at least partially syncing up those augmentations seems to be punished brutally in the modern game – its no longer a slight edge, but the basis of standard lists, even for friendly games.
Have a think about what stratagems you actually remember to use. If you are terrible at remembering to spend command points, look at ways of spending them pregame as part of your list – getting extra relics out onto characters, making units veterans, or merging units depending on your army. That way you get the value of the command points without forgetting what you can do. If there are stratagems that seem fun, pick units that work with it. Build detachments partially on the units you like and how you want to play, but also to take command point generation more or less in mind. Sometimes taking the same forces in a different formal detachment makes a big difference to the numbers of CP you get.
It basically boils down to one of the areas I’m weakest at – know the rules for your army as well as you can.
For me, I don’t like to carried away working how to exploit the rules to be filthy. Working out ways of putting abilities and stratagems to pull something off that feels like its straight from a novel though? Awesome.
Once you have a list put together, do you best to make sure the list is clear, accessible and easy to work with during the game. A quick note of page numbers for more complex stuff can be invaluable, both for reference, and also to help make sure you have all the books you actually need.
My cardinal rule here is just remember you are both here to have fun, and you’ll enjoy the game more if your opponent is having a cracking time too. Don’t try to hide “gotcha” moments – run through your list with your opponent, explain any use of command points in building the list, and say how many you’ll be starting the game with.
Explain anything with optional rules – things like your faction special rules (like Guard Regiment bonuses, or Marine Chapter rules), agree whether to choose psychic powers or both pull them randomly. Really make sure that anything not clearly WYSIWYG is explained to your opponent.
It leads to a much more enjoyable game for everyone than suddenly finding out that you aren’t fighting Ultramarine successors but Imperial Fists who are getting a completely different set of bonuses, or that a big beastie actually has a load of ranged weapons that aren’t on the model as you pour out of cover out of charge range.
Unless its a very regular opponent, I think a quick conversation about the style of game helps. Are you being kind and allowing take backs or use of stratagems a little out of turn if they were forgotten? Or are you sticking rigorously to the order of play? Generally people are easy with either option, but its incredibly frustrating to allow your opponent to redo something, only to be told you can’t do the same. It tends to come up more in multiplayer games – making sure everyone is on the same page really helps.
Setup and Turn 0
Its very easy to forget that your army isn’t just a generic force, but one that has specific requirements. A small elite force generally wants to set up very differently to a big guard regiment. Think through the games you’ve done well at, and think about the deployment options if you dice up for missions. If I have a guard regiment fighting knights, I want to engage them at range. Picking deployments that box in the hordes of troops, don’t leave me space to manoeuvre the tanks and block avenues of fire is going to cripple me – which is exactly what the knight general will do to you if he wins the deployment rolls. If you haven’t even though about this and pick standard options, you can really hurt your own chances. Make sure you have an idea for how you want to use reserves, and what you want to deploy, as that’ll affect these options too.
Turn 0, I hear you ask? Well, there are increasing numbers of stratagems and special rules that happen after setup, but before turn 1 begins. Have a crib sheet reminding you to use any of those special stratagems, as you won’t get a second chance! And if you miss them and start the game frustrated? You’ll enjoy it less and already be on the back foot.
Let the Games Begin
We’re now into the games proper! There are several things I thoroughly recommend.
Make sure you have clear and obvious ways of tracking things like command points. Dice or a tracking dial that you and your opponent can see helps. Same for wound markers on minis – it really helps everyone keep track of the game.
Try to have a crib sheet of stratagems and powers, so you don’t forget what you could be doing each turn. It also helps to note down ways of stacking them and ways not to use them. If you have a captain letting you reroll 1s to hit, and a lieutenant giving you rerolls of 1 to wound, using a psychic power on the same unit to help them hit is probably redundant. Break the notes down to when you can use each ability during a turn – don’t miss out on healing with your apothecary because you forget to use it at the end of the movement phase.
Most of all, you want to have fun. Don’t try to “gotcha” the opponent with a surprise ability or an arsey interpretation of the rules as written. Beat them with tactics, placement, planning your shooting and close combat, sure. Pulling a “lol – I can actually setup here as its 9″ away straight up” just irritates.
If the game is a one sided slaughter, do you play to the end? Well, there’s always a chance to turn it around, and if you can do so with grace, I highly recommend it. If it just feels miserable, though, offer to call it. If you aren’t enjoying the game at all, dragging it out can be awkward for everyone. If you aren’t enjoying it, why play? I quite enjoy the heroic last stand, myself, and if I’ve simply been outplayed or made mistakes I’ll regroup and fight to the end. That’s not for everyone, and if you’re feeling you’re being beaten by rules rather than the player, it can feel terrible.
Also, take photos and post them up for people like me on twitter to see for vicarious gaming fun 😉
Finishing the Game
I love having a quick chat at the end of the game, make sure my opponent had fun too, and finding out what they liked, what they didn’t like, and so on. If the game has swung into a thrashing, a quick chat at the end can help establish why, and perk up everyones mood. Talk about the models that did well – I find allocating an MVP award to the best model or unit on both sides is interesting, as your perception and your opponents can differ radically. It gives some real insight and really helps people improve their games.
If you’ve taken anything away from this, I hope its that we should be working out how to play a good fun game, not how to hammer your opponent by abusing the rules. Knowing the rules, or having reminders, so you aren’t holding the game up and frustrating yourself helps the game flow better and be a more enjoyable experience. Try to make sure you both have a fun game, and try to identify which bits were the most fun and what wasn’t as enjoyable for both of you. Done right, every game of 40k against a regular opponent should be more and more entertaining for everyone.